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MOSCOW, December 19. /ITAR-TASS World Service/. Russia’s State Duma lower house of parliament on Wednesday declared amnesty in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution. Right after the draft law was submitted to the Duma, leader of the United Russia faction Vladimir Vasilyev said that about 25,000 people would be amnestied, including 2,000 prisoners.
Under the amnesty, which is called “wide,” about 1,300 prisoners will be released, the Vedomosti newspaper writes. The amnesty resolution is based on a draft prepared by the RF Presidential Human Rights Council (HRC) and submitted after a considerable adjustment by President Vladimir Putin, the newspaper stresses. The lawmakers refined it: the lower house adopted an amendment proposed by the United Russia MPs, Communist Party (CPRF) and Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) to extend the amnesty to the suspects and accused in the Bolotnaya Square case of mass riots, as well as Greenpeace activists - as the presidential draft initially had not allowed the release of the accused of hooliganism Greenpeace activists and persons accused of involvement in mass riots before the court sentence, unlike the other amnestied.
According to various estimates, eight to 10 Bolotnaya Square case suspects might be amnestied. The Communists and A Just Russia party members pressed for granting amnesty for all those involved in the Bolotnaya Square case, but the relevant committee and then the Duma refused to do it.
At the suggestion of a group of United Russia MPs, Communists and LDPR members, the list of Criminal Code articles to which amnesty does not apply was supplemented by the articles of pedophilia and terrorism and the article of abuse of office with violence (Article 286, part 3 of the Russian Criminal Code). The policemen who tortured suspects have been often charged under it.
The former Defense Minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, who has been charged with negligence, may avoid responsibility. The lawmakers did not rule out that his duty trips to the “flashpoints” during his term of office would be regarded as “actions to protect the Fatherland.”
The Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper notes that members of the Pussy Riot punk band Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina will be released three months ahead of time, and the criminal proceedings against the Greenpeace environmentalists who participated in a protest action to board a Gazprom offshore oil platform in the Arctic, will be terminated.
The Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper publishes an article entitled: “The State Duma declares amnesty: Pussy Riot and Serdyukov to be pardoned, and Khodorkovsky to serve a little more time.” The newspaper says that amnesty will last for six months and the decision on each convict will be taken by court. Theoretically, the first prisoners may be released by the New Year holidays, if the lawyers, judges and penal administrations work promptly.
“It appears that the declared amnesty is rather narrow, as it has not been granted to the absolute majority of prisoners who needed it,” believes lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky, quoted by the Kommersant daily. According to him, “a limited number of prisoners who usually don’t get severe punishment - women, old people and underage persons” are amnestied. The lawyer recalled that under the 2000 amnesty, all the prisoners “whose term expired in less than a year” had been released.
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